Exclusive: How the UK are trying to Stop my Work: Full Story

I’ve never really blown this up before, because I generally believe in getting on with my work without fuss. However, to pre-empt anything which may be, I believe it’s time to get this in the public domain.

Brief overview: 

I was living in Odessa at the time of Euromaidan in late 2013, having previously lived 2 years in Kiev. Working as a freelance journalist, doing some English teaching to pay bills. My position on Maidan differed to other journalists due to what I’d seen in Kiev myself in my time living there. So, not receiving offers to cover Maidan, I started blogging about Euromaidan in November 2013, filmed there in January 2014, and went on from there – filming and reporting for my YouTube channel, doing occasional interviews for RT. In March of 2014, I went to Crimea to report for myself, having already travelled around all of the, then, east Ukraine.

In April, RT asked me to go to Donetsk for a week’s work. I went, continued working for them until July of 2014, after my 2nd deportation.

I went back to Donbass, of my own volition, in August of 2014, and continued working there. I accepted an offer to work, on a freelance contract with Russian channel Zvezda, in September, and worked with them until I ended our working relationship in March of 2015.

Since then, I’ve worked entirely for myself, via crowdfunding, in Donbass, Russia, across Europe, and the UK.

The UK Government, and Myself

My first contact with the UK government was after my 2nd deportation from Ukraine, in July of 2014, when I asked for their help. They flatly refused to give their help – 


Yet, in similar circumstances, they did everything they could to help BBC journalists… 


On the 18th February, the FCO wrote this to me: 

Dear Graham

We have been alerted to a number of social media updates that have caused some to raise questions about your presence in Ukraine in a journalistic capacity.

Particular things that have raised concerns include being photographed while wearing military uniforms, separatist insignia, or holding firearms. We are very concerned that you may be putting yourself in danger through these types of activities which could be seen as a blurring of the line between journalism and active involvement in a conflict.

I can only repeat that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to Crimea, Donetsk oblast and Lugansk oblast. We advise against all but essential travel to Kharkiv oblast. Our travel advice is available here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ukraine. As we have previously discussed with you, we recommend that British Nationals leave these areas.

Your safety, and that of other British Nationals is a priority for us. Although we are not able to provide consular services within these areas, please do not hesitate to contact us either in London or at the British Embassy in Kyiv if you require consular assistance.

Sarah Winter
Consular Directorate
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Now, this is dressed up as concern, which I took as being entirely insincere, given the refusal of the FCO to do anything to help me after my deportations.  And they key part here: photographed while wearing military uniforms, separatist insignia, or holding firearms.

You may like or not like that I’ve done, and do that, but I’ve always been quite clear about the reasons for it: military uniforms when at positions so as not to attract danger to those I’m with by wearing more visible colours. Firearms, because I was doing reportage on firing drills, and as I always do, got as close to the action as possible (within reasonable boundaries) – by joining in.

The message from the FCO was clear in any case: We don’t like what you’re doing, stop it. 

I replied, making the above points, to which the FCO didn’t reply. However, when I returned to the UK, Heathrow, on March 4th of 2015, after a near seven-month spell working in Donbass, what I believe to be a senior member of the British special services was waiting for me, and questioned me for 4 hours.

The interrogation, where I was held under the Section 7 terrorism act, was extensive, covering my working, and personal life. It was also, at times, provocative, with my being asked ‘why I was producing Russian propaganda?’, and even ‘why was I lying about events in Crimea, and Donbass?’.

The second one in particular produced a visceral response, where I defended my work: I was always on the scene, I always report the truth, with full integrity. How dare someone who has got all his information from second-hand, biased sources, accuse me, who had been there and seen for myself, of propaganda! After this, probably outburst, my interrogator momentarily chuckled, and said he ‘had to ask that’.

About my personal life, I have no secrets, and gave information already in the public domain. The same for my working life, no secrets, and I gave no information not in the public domain. My laptop was taken away for the duration of the interview, and returned to me after. It was old, and damaged, in any case I binned it shortly after. There was no confidential information on it.

I was released after 4 hours, with the special services operative making it clear that he’d been sent to do a job, even kind of apologising. It had neither been particularly stressful, or intense. It was just a bit inconvenient, my mum was waiting for me, I was already tired from speaking to the MH17 investigation for 6 hours that day.

But, ok, that was that. No one touched or bothered me in those couple of months back in the UK, and in fact I had no further contact with the FCO until I was arrested, and deported, from Latvia, in early 2016 – the powers hadn’t liked the way I’d covered a pro-Nazi demonstration there.

During my detention, I know that people called the UK FCO on my behalf. They said they were ‘aware of the situation‘, ‘doing what they could‘, etc. But they didn’t do anything to help me, and when I wrote to them after, also didn’t do anything to help me.

In September of 2016, a scandal kicked off, after some objected to the way I’d questioned Ukrainian terrorist Vladimir Zhemchugov. Judith Gough, UK ambassador to Ukraine, responded as such:

UK has no grounds to ban journalist Phillips from leaving his country – ambassador

British Ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough has said she was appalled by the behavior of British journalist Graham Phillips during the release of Ukrainian captive Volodymyr Zhemchuhov, however the UK government has no reason to prohibit him from leaving the country.

In a statement published on the official Facebook page of the UK Embassy in Ukraine on Friday, Gough said she watched the video of the prisoner exchange and was appalled by Graham Phillips’ behavior towards Zhemchuhov.

She noted that a lot of people called on the UK to deprive Phillips of the British passport. However, the UK government does not have sufficient grounds to do this. Phillips did not commit any offenses in the UK, which could become the basis for the British government to ban him from leaving the country, Gough said. If he violated Ukrainian legislation, it is up to the Ukrainian authorities to decide on appropriate actions in relation to Phillips in Ukraine, she added.

So, that’s that. But, things have been changing recently, as the UK publicly, sharply ups its support for Ukraine, with stronger statements of support, and increased military backing, and looks to take out anything non-aligned with that position, while sending out an aggressive message – the recent imprisoning of Ben Stimson, and the updating of travel advice to Ukraine. Specifically they’ve extended the threat of punishment to those who may ‘assist those engaged in conflict’. What’s the definition of ‘assisting’? They don’t say.

And now, it seems, they’ve come for me. The BBC have been sent to do a hit piece on me, read about that here. And that would then pave the way for the UK government to take action against me, knowing that any public outcry has been allayed. It wouldn’t be ‘action against a journalist‘, they’d make it ‘action against a Russian propagandist‘, and of course, the purpose of the BBC fishing trip, was for me to state on the record that I’m ‘returning to Donbass‘. Then it’s ‘Russian propagandist banned from Ukraine as threat to state security stopped at UK border as he attempts to return‘, and most people, knowing nothing of the real facts, have no problem with that.

So, that’s the story of what’s been, with myself and the UK authorities, and I’m not only ready for what’s to come, I’m determined they’re not going to get away with it.

Oh, and just as you’ll be reading this, in UK authority, my 3-year-ban from Ukraine official ends on July 26th, by the way. You’re late, clumsy, out of shape, out of luck.

My Latvian Deportation, Ban, Court ‘Appearance’, return to Donbass

Graham Phillips

My reportage project to the Baltics was an idea incepted in Donbass in December, as I made the decision to leave Donbass for a while, and looked for a place of interest to go and report on.

The Baltics stood out for number of reasons – as I outlined here.

But things were a bit weird from the start, if I’m honest. There was the most mixed of mixed reactions to my trip, in their number no small number of threats of various degrees of severity. Nonetheless, I kept my spirits up about the trip, writing a number of positive messages on my various social media accounts about the country, and my plans there. (This tweet here, from the 9th January, ‘I love Latvia’).

Reports started coming out of Latvia that the country may not admit me. I was puzzled by these, in as much as Latvia has been an EU country for over 10 years, I’m a British (currently in the EU, as Latvia) citizen, with an absolutely clean criminal record. Latvia had no possible grounds to refuse me entry.

Yet, with the Baltics track record of deporting Russian journalists, for nothing other than being Russian, and early efforts by Baltic media to depict me as a Fullscreen capture 12032016 201956.bmp‘Kremlin’, ‘pro-Kremlin’, ‘journalist’, ‘propagandist’ (of course nonsense, I’m a British journalist, independent, no connection to Russia, let alone the Kremlin), I decided to play it safe, and on 13th March, entered via Estonia.

On this day, I also filmed what turned out to be the only reportage from my crowd-funded trip to the Baltics (because of its short duration, I’ll of course be offering refunds to all of those who got involved) – here it is, with English subs (thanks to Sergey Yermolayev for that) –

Graham Latvia4What happened after that? I went along to cover the annual meeting in Riga honouring the Latvian Legion, who fought as part of Nazi Germany’s Waffen SS, with the aim being to do something new for me – a stream of live reporting via my newly-created Periscope channel.  I went along with some certain questions I wanted to ask, namely, why were people there honouring a legion which fought for the Nazis?

And I indeed asked those questions, politely – if at times, due to the event generally noisy, somewhat loudly. I asked them right up until the point the police swooped on me, arrested me, carted me off to a 4-hour-detention including being sent to hospital for a drug and alcohol test (of course, clear). Had the police warned me before my arrest? Twice, I’d been told to tone it down. I toned it down. When arrested, I was, at speaking volume, recording an interview with a man who turned out to be far-right Estonian politician, Jaak Madison, who had Fullscreen capture 24032016 025109.bmpwapped me with his gloves, forced my camera shut. I’d ignored all of this, continued the interview, with perhaps astringent questions, but politely and with considerably more moderation than Madison.

Madison, by the way, is the youngest ever politician to join the Estonian parliament, known for his embracing of Nazi ideology, a hatred towards the ethnic Russian population of Estonia, a shady past, and misuse of government funds which has seen an online petition launched against him.

Then, my arrest, detention in fairly standard circumstances albeit I was denied a request for water ‘we don’t have any‘, and some of the police officers were not exactly what one would expect of police officers in a ‘EU’ country. Before being released, I was given a page of charges against me, which I refused to sign – as was my right – because they were nonsense.

And after that? I retrieved the equipment I’d given out to friends to film me, went back to my hostel to start putting a piece together. That had been my only intention from the first moment, as I’d explained to Latvian police accusing me of ‘provocation‘, to film some interesting reportage. There was no intention of ‘provocation‘, there was no provocation. I was told my ‘offence’ was an ‘administrative’ matter, which, if it ever made it to court, could result in a small fine if I was found guilty.

Anyway, things were decidedly strange, back at my hostel in the centre of the city. I’d been sure to park my car out of view from the street. I’d not booked online, just turned up and checked in, hadn’t told anyone where I was staying. In any case, the hostel manager came to see me, and something was a bit off. He kept talking about what a ‘hero’ I was, but he was jumpy. Then, there was a knock at my window, a guy claiming to be a lawyer, representing a pro-Russian movement in Latvia. He was the first person I’d seen wearing a St George’s ribbon (which in itself can lead to arrest in the Baltics). He said he’d seen the manager (who’d Graham Latvia3come to visit me) who’d had a visit from the police, asking about me. He was a bit over-friendly, in any case left after a few minutes. It was odd.

Anyway, I got to work, also reading news reports from the day, which included the news that Latvia had decided not to deport me, ‘due to my being a journalist’, but that I wasn’t welcome in the country. I posted updates on my social media, criticising the government for their position, for how they’d acted that day – putting the feelings of a few attendees at a pro-Nazi march above freedom of speech, the press. I also, on my various social media sites, and on the news, stated my intention to stay reporting in Latvia, and re-iterated my goodwill towards the country, despite what had happened that day, while noting it was an attack on the press, freedom of speech.

Then, about 10 in the evening, I was working on my reportage from the day, there was a knock on the door, and a Latvian voice, in English, saying ‘there’s a message for you’. I got the door, there were four border guards, immediately Fullscreen capture 28032016 222233.bmptelling me ‘switch off all recording devices‘. They swept in, moving for all my cameras, explaining a decision had been made by the country’s interior minister to deport me, with immediate effect, ban me for 3 years.

It all felt absurd, Kafka-esque. They took me to their office in the centre of Latvia, told me I was being deported for being a ‘risk to state security’, despite my ‘offence’ being a minor public order ‘violation’. I asked to speak to the British Embassy, they googled that, called once on the office hours number (it was well outside office hours) then said ‘no answer’, that they’d fulfilled their obligation in calling, and that was that.

The charges were written out against me, I was asked to sign, I wrote instead ‘this is a joke‘, and was told that if I didn’t ‘behave‘, they would imprison me for 10 days, then deport me, confiscating my car in the process. I agreed to ‘cooperate’, and attention turned to my route out of Latvia, by car. I requested to go to Estonia, but was told Estonia had already banned me. I told them this was impossible, I’d just entered there, had done nothing there. They refused to discuss the matter. So it was agreed I’d be deported to Lithuania, by car.

There were calls made, then I was informed Lithuania was refusing to take me. I told them this was impossible, I’d not been to Lithuania for some 10 years, there was nothing I could have done there to result in that. But again, no debate brooked, I was informed I was to be deported to Russia. Simply fortunate I had a valid visa for Russia, as without that, it would have been a plane to the UK, stripped of my car and many possessions.

Fullscreen capture 28032016 220644.bmpSo, we set off around midnight, 2 border guards in my car, an escort car guiding ahead. I’d slept little the night before, it had already been a long day, and after near 4 hours of driving, felt myself falling asleep. A border guard took over for the remaining hour-and-a-half, which took us to the border. We arrived there, formalities were concluded. I hadn’t liked the Latvian border guards, they’d been at first aggressive, after that just deceitful, unprofessional. My final moments in Latvia were even more unpleasant, as I sat in my car for a few moments taking stock, at an empty border crossing, before being told I couldn’t stay there, and my car door shut on me.

And that was that, my, as it transpired, 3-day trip to Latvia. Driving through Russia, to Moscow, there was a lot of information to digest. I could hardly believe I’d been deported in those circumstances, could hardly believe it was legal. That the Latvian government, who’d initially said they wouldn’t deport me, had bowed to the bruised feelings of few members of a fewer than 1000-strong pro-Nazi march, not legal since the year 2000 in any case, in a country of 2 million.

My own country, the UK, did absolutely nothing to help me. I know for a fact there had been calls to them, they were aware of the situation. But, they acted as if I didn’t exist. It took Russia’s Foreign Affairs representative, Maria Zakharova (who I’ve actually never met), to stand up for me. Meanwhile, the Latvian position, was that I’d been deported for my ‘administrative offence’, not for political reasons… (and, incidentally, the source here, this Latvian English-language media ad-hominem on me is quite something – but it was also expected, I’d written this, and this article before the Baltics trip, debunking the lies likely – and indeed which were – told about me).

It was all surreal, absurd, and it’s got absurder and absurder since then. Latvian media came out with a story that my presence there had all been pre-planned, including at a military base, and it represented an attempt to encourage Latvia to become part of the Russian federation.

And most recently, that the case against me has been transferred to a Latvian court, and could result in a fine of up to 280 Euros, or 15 days in jail. Can I defend myself at the trial? Of course not – banned for 3 years. My reportage trip to Latvia turned out to be very brief, but certainly revealed a lot about the country.

What’s the reality of Latvia, an EU member for over 10 years? The government are as anti-Russian as possible, in order to show allegiance to the EU, get more EU, US funding. When you speak to people, they’ll tell you life in Latvia isn’t that good at all – prices now as high as anywhere in the EU, wages just what they were in old Latvia. The squeeze on the minority Russian population of Latvia, and stripping of their rights, is ever increasing. I had interviews lined up with a number of people who’d sat in cells for expressing pro-Russia views. Sadly, I won’t have the chance to do them now, but my experience confirms the current Fullscreen capture 28032016 224221.bmpsituation in Latvia.

And as I found out, at a cost of deportation, ban, possibly sentenced to time in a Latvian cell, if you try to report things in Latvia as they really are – as opposed to the government-sympathetic Latvian media, you’ll very quickly become persona non-grata in that Baltic state, and by default seemingly, all of them.

My car door was slammed on me by a Latvian border guard, as the door to Latvia was shut on me for 3 years – though given that the country doesn’t have borders, there’s nothing really to stop me returning via the EU. In any case, it was refreshing after Latvia, to be deported into Russia, where I worked for a few days, without any hindrance or press restriction, covering the Savchenko verdict (I’m referred to in the ever anti-Russian Daily Beast as having a ‘strong pro-Kremlin agenda’ – ie, I don’t support the western media line), then, I returned to Donbass where I’ve put on presentations of my film Aramis, and have filmed reportage. Again, no problems connected to work.

Oh, and needless to say, my attempt to take the matter up with Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth resulted in their standard email for people they don’t want to help saying ‘would have loved to help, but hands tied old bean etc etc‘. (More on that coming). I’d honestly never have expected to be deported from an EU country, let alone for asking attendees at a pro-Nazi march why they were there.

But, that’s Latvia, 2016, as I discovered in my time there. And we go on from there!

Crowdfunding (#2) My (Crowdfunded) Reportage Plans for This Year

Graham Phillips

Of course, plans in journalism can always change, but with work on my film Aramis drawing to a conclusion – the premiere next week in St Petersburg, here’s how my crowdfunded journalism in 2016 may look –

Graham at workMarchBaltics Reportage Trip

AprilCovering Dutch Referendum on Ukraine

May – I’d like to do some reportage from Germany, on the refugee crisis, en route back to the Baltics to continue reporting there then –

JuneBack to London to cover UK Brexit referendum (and arrange screening of film ‘Aramis’).

July – A couple of proposals for this, we’ll see!

AugustA return to Crimea to continue my reportage there

Graham Phillips at workSeptember – Lugansk for City Day, September 13th, and likely the rest of the year in Donbass, reporting from there, and working on projects.

Of course all of this depends on my raising enough, via crowd-funding, to fund these trips. I’d like to say a huge thanks to my patrons on Patreon, here, for being with me, and everyone who supports my work – in every way!

I know we’ll do some great, world-changing things this year, together!

Crowdfunding (#1) 12 Reasons why my upcoming Baltics Reportage Trip is Important

Graham Phillips

I was planning my Baltics reportage trip for February, but for a few reasons, have put it off until March. I’m a crowdfunded journalist, the trip will be entirely crowdfunded. So, why should you think of contributing? Here’s 12 reasons –

    1. Fullscreen capture 22022016 122610.bmpThe Baltics are clearly important – the BBC recently predicated their World War Three documentary ‘Inside the War Room’ on a hypothetical Latvia invasion.
    2. Yet what’s really going on there, what’s the real situation?
    3. When was the last time you actually saw a proper news report from the Baltics?
    4. Just a note on this trip, I had planned it for February originally –
    5. Fullscreen capture 22022016 132706.bmpThere was a fair bit of interest in that, not all positive it must be said – here’s a sampling of the, many, spread across social media, not so welcoming messages –
      Žygimantas Gasiūnas Žygis We know how you tried talk with Ukraine people in London. And they kicked out. So stay away from our baltics becouse I will punch your face.
      Mindaugas Glodenis I am from the Baltics and I just give you a friendly warning. If anybody, who has seen your “journalism’ in Donbas sees you in Lithuania, you might be badly hurt.
    6. There was also some support, but I clearly didn’t to enough to convince people of the merits of the trip – the first crowdfunder only took in around $500 – not enough to cover trip costs. I need to do more to convince you this trip is worth your support!
    7. Do you know that all the stories you hear from the Baltics come through the prism of US propaganda? They’re sending $500,000 there to ‘counter’ ‘Russian propaganda’, with their own propaganda.
    8. Graham VilniusI remember the Baltics, visiting there several times in the mid 2000s. I remember people speaking Russian there, telling me they were Russian, Russian-language schools and societies. (Photo of myself, and mother, in Vilnius, 2007)
      Now what? Latvia’s in NATO, has seemingly become one of Russia’s most virulent opponents – saying it will refuse to ever accept Crimea as Russia, even refusing to recognise Russian passports with Crimea as Russia. What’s going on there?
    9. In my many times visiting the Baltics, I’ve always been very fond of them. But I go there absolutely objective, with no allegiance to anything other than reporting the truth of how things are there.
    10. Graham in CrimeaThe trip is on for March, in any case a more interesting month there, with lots of things on. I’m really looking forward to it! It’s going to be the style of reportage that I love – street reportage, from the ground, no censor, just how things are (this, Crimea in summer of 2015) –
    11. It may well be for longer than 2 weeks, it’ll be for however long is necessary to do some really worthwhile reportage.
    12. I estimate needing to raise another $1000 or so for the trip. I’ll be doing another crowdfunder for the trip, if in the interim you’d like to donate to my Paypal account, I’ll match that up with the rewards on crowdfunding – everyone who is a part of this trip, will get something in return – Paypal: gwplondon@gmail.com
      Be sure, I don’t measure support just by financial contribution, all kind words, comments, support for my work means a lot to me!